When it comes to The Maze Runner, there are some facts we need to acknowledge. The first is that the book was very good, up until the piss-poor ending that was bad by itself and even worse for its sequel-teasing. The second is that this book was probably envisioned from the get-go as a movie, as the premise is just begging for a big screen viewing lens. So with those two things out of the way, let’s talk about this movie as it’s meant to be talked about.
In a world where Hunger Games and Divergent tween-age “fight the man” stories are all the rage, does The Maze Runner manage to stand above the rest? In short, yes. Both the movie and the book it is based off are far more compelling reads/watches than either Hunger Games or Divergent, as the latter two are rife with tired old cliches like teenage girl boy troubles, an evil government, blah blah blah. The Maze Runner does away with those two things, which instantly puts it above the other two in terms of raw creativity and what it brings to the table.
Now, what makes The Maze Runner itself better than other young-adult-rebellion flicks in terms of cinematography is a bit more ambiguous. The acting isn’t oodles better than HG and Divergent (all three have pretty solid lead casts), so what really puts a movie about intense maze jogging above the rest? I’d be willing to go out on a limb and credit most of it to the visual effects artists and director. The Maze Runner as a book was a very descriptive story that set up a scary yet interesting world for the young boys to fend for their lives in, one that would look inherently cool on the big screen. And guess what, it does. It looks sooooo f*cking cool. Honestly, I can’t recall a time that an environment in a movie was so mentally stimulating or visually entrancing. You can literally sense the danger of the maze from the minute you are introduced to it, and any movie set that can get that feeling across deserves massive props.
As far as action goes, the movie is rather light on it, but that’s just due to accuracy when following the source material. What little action there is is suspenseful, pulse-pounding and some of the best chase-scene content I’ve ever seen in a movie. It’s ridiculously intense. The only real issue with these sequences is that you can tell certain areas had to suckle from the dry-teat that was this movie’s small budget of $30 million. But since that’s not their fault, they gain the credit of having made some damn-pretty CGI with such a limited pool of cash.
My three major gripes with the movie are as follows. One, and this is a petty one but it’s starting to grind my gears, is that none of the main characters ever get injured. This really applies for the current state of movies as a whole, but this movie in particular needed some bloodying up. I want a main character to lose an arm or some shit if he’s gonna fight on the front lines while his friends get their spines ripped out right beside him. And why do boys who have been trapped in a maze for dozens of months all have perfectly styled and gelled haircuts?
My second major gripe is the soundtrack. For the first third of the movie the score was spectacular, but after that it’s like the composer just started working on a different project all together and accidentally sent it to The Maze Runner’s sound department.
My third and MOST IMPORTANT gripe is that the ending is still shit, just as it was in the original book. But it’s not even the same kind of shit! They trick you into thinking that they’ve learned from the book’s mistakes, leading you in a new and exciting direction for the first few minutes of the final scenes…. but then they make it just as stupid by introducing a new spin on the original shitty plot twist, and then the shitty surprise death (not gonna say who), and then the shitty sequel-baiting. Seriously, if you haven’t read the book yet, just walk out when you see the main conflict is over. You’ll have a better opinion of the movie overall.
At the end of the day, not even the movie’s shitty ending can ruin The Maze Runner for me. The maze was so beautifully portrayed and so wonderfully rendered that I can’t help but love this movie for its jaw-dropping setting, although the good cast helped too. If you stop to think about the movie you’ll notice tons of plot holes from beginning to end, the ending is shit, and the soundtrack drops the ball around 45 minutes in; but all of that can be forgiven for the movie with the most engrossing setting in young-adult genre history.